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More Sleep = Better Running & Fewer Midnight Cravings

A strange thing happened to me recently…I got a full night’s sleep!

Better_sleep_4 For months now I’ve been staying up later and later.  The reasons aren’t important, but the outcome has been noticeable.  Burning the midnight oil has left me chronically tired and most days without the energy level to run as consistently as I’m used to.

Another outcome of my late nights and less sleep is weight gain.
It’s been puzzling and frustrating how I haven’t been able to shed the pounds.  It wasn’t until talking with a friend, a non-runner who has 70+ pounds to lose, that I put it all together.  The friend is working closely with his doctor who says step number one in successful weight loss—even before calorie counting and smaller serving portions—is getting adequate sleep.  He cites two reasons:

  • Without enough sleep the brain will not let the body devote the required energy to exercise, so the desire and the capability to increase calorie burn is just not there.
  • Inadequate sleep produces poor judgment around eating.  The brain just doesn’t do its job managing our cravings, including informing the stomach we’re not hungry.

This is me to a T

When I’m well rested, I can resist calorie-stoked temptations.   When I’m up late, the refrigerator and the cupboard doors swing open magically and beckon me to graze on snacks and leftovers.  I cave in like Cheetos are a god.  So for nearly every night in the last six months I’ve eaten a fourth meal, and generally with no nutritional value and empty calories.

For those who need some scientific basis for all this, here’s the scoop.  Inadequate sleep:

  • interferes with the body's ability to metabolize carbohydrates and causes high blood levels of glucose, which leads to higher insulin levels and greater body-fat storage.
  • drives down leptin levels, which causes the body to crave carbohydrates.
  • reduces levels of growth hormone, a protein that helps regulate the body's proportions of fat and muscle.

So my experiment these days—I’m always tweaking something with my running—is start an early-to-bed habit.  It’s easy to say, but tough to turn in when I still have favorite blogs to read and posts to write, which I tend to enjoy later in the evening. 

There's no shortage of material and research connecting sleep with weight loss, and here's an interesting piece on how to sleep like an Olympian.

But in the short time I’m getting to bed earlier, I’m finding that energy to run and no more piling on hundreds of calories at midnight!

Better Sleep sign on Flickr by Sodapopper


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Great post Tom!!

I was laughing so hard when you said the fourth meal :-) This past week I have found myself getting some great sleep, and a great weight loss. I am also asleep for the fourth meal. Happy sleeping!


I think you may have just solved my problem. I'm looking at about 10 pounds of "winter weight," and it seems like no amount of running (extra miles, more intensity) is touching it.

Staying up late to do research and write (and eat Doritos) is doing nothing for my cause. I've got to find a way to re-organize my time. Thanks again for the "heads up!"

Ed Hammerbeck

Holy peanut butter sandwiches at 3 AM Batman! This is why I cannot lose weight, despite running 20-25 miles per week! I have to figure this one out.


Me, too. :P


I've been on a similar quest lately - I Need More Sleep! Thanks for the article links - I will definitely check them out!


Very good post!! If only I can figure out how to make this work with a two month old.


I find this to be INCREDIBLY true for myself -- and not only for the scientific reasons, but also because when I'm well rested, I have the required energy to PLAN my food and to get in a great workout -- and then I'm tired from my workout so I sleep well again and the cycle continues.

Andrew is getting fit

So true, so true. I've forgotten what great sleep is. 9 month old baby who still doesn't sleep through the night doesn't help. ;)


I'm with you on this one. I'm always "hungrier" when I don't get enough sleep.


Great post but can you write a follow up on how to do it with a 6 m/o baby! J/K ;-)

Database Diva

I think I had a resolution about getting "enough sleep" in January. It is probably the most difficult one to keep, especially with a 7x24 job. Plenty of sleep is also necessary to recover from an injury. Thanks for the reminder!


getting enough sleep is a great idea, and believe me, there is nothing i would rather do right now than sleep enough, but i just don't seem to have the time, something has to give and lately its been my sleep! luckily there is always the weekends to catch up (even though i know that isn't that great for me...)


Tom, I really enjoyed your article, it is so true about getting enough sleep. Thanks for the links too.

@database diva - I'm not sure you can 'catch up' on sleep :)

At kdays.com I host the Running Blog Carnival.

This post was included in the Running #2008-10 edition.


Derica Spieker

I hope this has been working out for you, Tom! Indeed, sleeping is a better way to amass enough energy for vigorous activities such as running. It's quite commonsensical, actually, how sleeping can take away the time that you are supposed to be munching on extra calories. If only staying up late wasn't that fun, everybody would go with this healthier routine.

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This is the one we did, isn't it??? It's one of my all time favorite runs.!

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Research has shown that sleeping at recommended hours also reduces the likelihood of one being obese.

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